UN chief António Guterres said on Thursday that the “democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people” need to be realized through “an appropriate and inclusive transition process”, following the overthrow and arrest of President Omar al-Bashir by order of the country’s new military governing council.
In a statement issued in New York by his Spokesperson, the Secretary-General said he would continue to follow development “very closely” and reiterated his call for calm and “utmost restraint by all”.
But on Thursday night, according to news reports, thousands of Sudanese in the capital Khartoum defied a military curfew which was supposed to keep citizens off the streets from 10pm until 4am, raising fears of fresh violence between security forces and protesters, as well as possible clashes between militia and army units.
An official message carried on State-run media stated that “the armed forces and security council will carry out its duty to uphold peace”, protect citizens’ security, and “citizens’ livelihoods”.
Mr. Guterres said in his statement that the UN “stands ready to support the Sudanese people as they chart a new way forward.” Earlier in the day, a group of UN human rights experts condemned reports of “excessive use of force against peaceful protesters in Sudan” during the past six days of heightened protest leading up to the overthrow of President Bashir, when tens-of-thousands took to the streets, holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in central Khartoum.
“While taking note of the latest reports that a military council is being formed”, the experts called on the authorities to respond to “the legitimate grievances of the people.”
More than 20 killed, 100 injured in protests
More than 20 people have been killed and over 100 injured since 6 April, the experts said, adding they had also received reports of widespread arrests and attacks on journalists by the security forces.
At the sit-in prior to the military takeover, the National Intelligence and Security Services used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters, prompting the army to move in to protect them.
“In this moment of crisis, the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly needs to be protected and guaranteed,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.
Protests erupted nearly four months ago when the Government attempted to raise the prices of bread and basic commodities.
“I urge the authorities to lift the national state of emergency and respond to the legitimate grievances of the Sudanese people through inclusive peaceful political process,” Mr. Voule said. “The Sudanese people, including human rights defenders, have the right to express their views and concerns through peaceful means, in particular on issues concerning fundamental rights,” added Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, said the State’s institutions are obliged to protect civilians and respect the people’s legitimate demands and constitutional rights.
“I call on State authorities to uphold their primary responsibility to protect the civilian population in Sudan, and I strongly urge the Sudanese military and security forces to exercise the utmost restraint to avoid further escalation of violence and to take immediate measures to protect the constitutional rights of the Sudanese”, Mr. Nononsi said.
Rapid-response aid, from UN’s emergency fund
Also on Thursday, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock released a $26.5 million Rapid Response allocation from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund to provide life-saving food, livelihood, nutrition, health, water and sanitation assistance to over 800,000 people affected by a worsening economic crisis and food insecurity across seven states in Sudan, over the next six months.
“The economic crisis has had knock-on effects on the wider humanitarian situation that go beyond food insecurity. Higher food prices, mean that families are eating less nutritious food and more young children and pregnant women are getting sick. Families struggle to afford even limited medical treatment,” said Mr. Lowcock.
The CERF allocation will target internally displaced people, refugees, host communities, and vulnerable residents in areas with some of the largest increases in food insecurity, including in East, North, South and West Darfur, Red Sea, West Kordofan and White Nile states.